Bodhisattva statue unearthed

The Apsara National Authority technical team uncovered a sandstone statue of a Bodhisattva while carrying out excavation work at the east entrance of the Ta Nei temple on October 8.

The team was trying to find the temple’s roof stone, which had fallen into a pile of stones in land covered with anthills.

Ta Nei temple’s restoration project leader Sea Sophearun, who is also an archaeologist at the Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology said his team had only uncovered the head of the statue.

The right ear is still intact but the left one is missing and it has a scraped nose with one side of the cheek damaged.

“Firstly, we cannot determine what caused the damage to the cheek. It might be a result of the statue crashing into something. Although the statue was uncovered at the location, there is no evidence to show the torso of the statue lies in the spot where we uncovered the head,” Sophearun said.

Chhouk Somala, an officer in charge of archaeological registration at the Department of Monuments and Preventive Archaeology said the head is 54cm in height, 27cm in width and has a depth of 36cm.

Somala said the Bodhisattva statue’s head was carved in the Bayon style during the late 12th and early 13th centuries, during the reign of Jayavarman VII.

In Mahayana Buddhism, the statue head is known as the Avloketesvar Bodhisattva, also known as “Guanyin” who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

In Khmer art, this kind of statues has two, four, or eight arms, holding Buddhist strings, books, a rose, and a vase. Also, the statue was carved like Bodhisattva Buddha.

Apsara National Authority spokesman Long Kosal said experts have kept the statue head temporarily on the premises of the Apsara National Authority. Then, it will be registered and have its photo taken as part of the documentation process.

Besides, experts will prepare the request to have the statue stored at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB).

“After we have cleaned the statue’s head, we will study more about it. Then, in future we will exhibit it to the public,” said Kosal.

He said the Apsara National Authority team had always uncovered artefacts and statues in the Angkor area, but he could not provide the total number of such findings.

Unique in the Kingdom: Preah Vihear province’s ancient Buddha statues

Chaktomuk Temple, a unique ancient Buddhist shrine in Cambodia, is gradually regaining its popularity as a heritage site destination as more tourists visit the attraction following its restoration last year.

The temple’s four surviving back-to-back Buddha statues – facing north, south, east and west respectively – are regarded as unique in Cambodia.

Chaktomuk Temple is located within the vicinity of the Bakan temples, also known as the Preah Khan Kompong Svay archaeological complex, built between the 11th and 14th century about 100km east of Angkor in Preah Vihear province.

Prior to restoration, the upper half of the Chaktomuk Temple structure had collapsed, with the four back-to-back Buddha statues covered by overgrown plants which had eroded their surface.

The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has designated Chaktomuk Temple as one of Cambodia’s rarest and most unique. At an honorific ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An, who was appointed to lead the temple’s restoration, said the work was carried out with four purposes.

Firstly to precisely identify the structure’s construction date; secondly to prevent people damaging the collapsed Buddha statues further; thirdly to promote cultural and religious tourism; and finally to attract more visitors to increase local income.

Chaktomuk Temple’s design is remniscent of the world famous Bayon Temple’s four-smiling faces statue in the Angkor Archaeological Park, built as a dedication to the four-faced Avloketesvar (a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas).

“The four directions each Buddha statue faces are about the four Brahmavihara: Metta [loving-kindness], Karuna [compassion], Mudita [joy with others] and Upekkha [equanimity],” Royal Academy of Cambodia archaeological professor Thuy Chan Theoun told The Post.

“As far as I know, Chaktomuk is the only temple with surviving joined back-to-back Buddha statues in the country. It is a unique temple.”

He continued that Chaktomuk Temple was built in 12th century during King Jayavarman VII’s reign. In that period, the king led his men to the Bakan temples to fight back Champa’s troops before recapturing Yasodharapura (Angkor city) from invading Chams in 1181.

“Bakan Kampong Svay [Preah Khan Kompong Svay] is the largest ancient city in the Kingdom. The former city is where King Jayavarman VII’s troops stayed,” said Chan Theoun.

Content image – Phnom Penh Post
The statues are located among the Bakan temples, also known as the Preah Khan Kompong Svay archaeological complex. Hong Menea

However, Chan Theoun said he has found the remains of more destroyed back-to-back Buddha statues in other temples: “I found four back-to-back Buddha statues in Wat Tralaeng Keng in Lungvek commune [Kampong Chhnang province], which is another former city [1528 to 1594] built after the Angkor Era.

“Now at Wat Tralaeng Keng, we can only see the statues’ feet. According to locals, the Buddha statues were dragged to Tonle Sap lake at the east of pagoda.

“Locals claim that they found the Wat Tralaeng Keng statues in the Tonle Sap lake, saying Siamese troops dragged them there. Fishermen say that they know it is the statues, but they are not capable of lifting them out of the water.”

Chan Theoun now plans to resurface the statues from the lake.

“It is an initiative of my own. I stood on the river shore to look at where locals claimed they made the finding. I want to hire a sand dredger and a crane to lift the stone back to its original location. However, I have yet to realise my dream as I don’t have the time or the budget,” he said.

There are many temples in Preah Khan Kompong Svay, such as Preah Domrei, Preah Thkoal, Preah Stung, Mebon and Chaktomuk.

The heritage site was left abandoned for many years, but after restoration the Chaktomuk Temple structure was restored to its original height of ten metres.

“Because the road condition is not very good, we don’t see many people visiting on weekdays. But on weekends and especially national holidays, there are many visitors.

“Now, no one drives past without visiting Chaktomuk Temple. They will make a stop to take photos and place offerings for prayer,” said Heritage Authority officer Lee Phearum, who is stationed at the temple with other rangers.

Chaktomuk Temple is located to the east of Bakan Temple, about 100km from Angkor Archeological Park in Ronakse commune’s Ta Siang village, Sangkum Thmei district.

Thai’s ‘Ultraman Buddha’ draws fire

BANGKOK (Reuters) — A group of Buddhist hardliners in Thailand filed a police complaint against a young female artist on Wednesday over paintings that depict images of the Buddha as the 1960s Japanese superhero character Ultraman.

The complaint over four paintings, displayed earlier this month at a shopping mall in northeastern Thailand, highlights how ultra-conservative Buddhist groups have been emboldened to go farther than establishment religious authorities in combating perceived threats to their faith.

Buddhism, followed by more than 90 percent of Thais, is one of three traditional pillars of Thai society, alongside the nation and the monarchy.

The paintings were removed from the exhibition and the artist — a fourth-year university student whose name has been withheld for her safety — had to publicly apologize to northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima Province’s chief monk in front of the provincial governor.

In the past, that might have been the end of the incident.

But on Wednesday, the hardline group Buddhist Power of the Land said it had filed a police complaint against the artist and four others involved in the exhibition, on the grounds that comparing the Buddha to an action figure was disrespectful.

The group wants the five prosecuted under a law against insulting religion that allows imprisonment of up to seven years.

“The paintings dishonored and offended Buddhists and harmed a national treasure,” Buddhist Power of the Land representative Charoon Wonnakasinanone told Reuters.

The group also wants the paintings destroyed.

Under Thai law, police must investigate a complaint and recommend whether there are grounds to pursue criminal charges, a process that usually takes at least seven days.

Thailand’s official Buddhist authorities oppose criminal charges against the artist.

Pongporn Pramsaneh, director of the Office of National Buddhism, told Reuters he considered the matter closed after the public apology.

“Whoever wants to take legal action, we will not get involved,” Pongporn said.

Few have been jailed under the law, though there have been some cases of fines, including against tourists with Buddha tattoos or souvenir statues.

Iran’s historical relics return home after major China exhibit

The objects along with hundreds of others from various countries were put on show at the three-month exhibit titled “The Splendor of Asia: An Exhibition of Asian Civilizations”, which opened its doors to the public on July 13 at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.

“15 pieces of historical-cultural artifacts exhibited at ‘The Splendor of Asia’ were flawlessly returned home,” CTHN quoted Jebreil Nokandeh, director of the National Museum of Iran, as saying on Wednesday.

The Iranian objects, dating from Achaemenid era (550-330) to Safavid era (1501–1736), included clay works, inscriptions, sculptures and glassworks, which represent the [long-lasting] relationship between Iran and China.

The major exhibit, which came to an end on August 11, offered visitors a journey across the vast lands of the continent and travel through its long history by presenting 451 cultural relics from 49 countries.

“Such a large number of top-level exhibits and participating countries have never been seen before in one exhibition in China,” according to Guan Qiang, deputy director of China’s National Cultural Heritage Administration.

Currently, a collection of centuries-old celadons, which are on loan from the National Museum of Iran, are on show at Beijing’s Palace Museum that is hosting a vast exhibit of such potteries from several countries.

The National Museum of Iran is somewhat chock-full of priceless relics that represent various eras of the country’s rich history. Massive and tiny statutes, ceramics, potteries, stone figures, bas-relief carvings, metal objects, textile remains, rare books and coins are amongst objects that build up the innumerable collections inside.

Asia is home to the largest area, population and most ethnic groups in the world. It is the birthplace of Mesopotamian, Indian and Chinese civilizations.

Buddha sculpture from 11th Century found in Ariyalur

CHENNAI: A ruined granite Buddha sculpture dating to 11th Century AD was found among two Lord Vinayaka idols under a peepal tree in Pallipalayam, a remote village in Ariyalur district. A team led by Buddhist expert B Jambulingam identified the sculpture which was unearthed during the construction of the nearby Pandyan lake 15 years ago.
No one, however, knew the importance of it and it eventually became part of the Hindu style of worship.

1,000-year-old Sarapleng stupa to become tourist attraction

Thailand

A local politician along with archaeologists from the Fine Arts department are in Nakhon Ratchasima to survey a thousand-year-old Sarapleng stupa build in ancient Khmer style.

Bhumjaithai MP Apicha Lertpacharakamol said that Ministry of Tourism and Sports wants to support local attractions and the economy in the area including the stupa, which boasts a sandstone lintel and was constructed next to a pond to its northeastern and a Baray, an artificial body of water common to the architectural style of the Khmer Empire. The Fine Arts Department registered the area on which the Sarapleng stupa stands in the Government Gazette, Book 53, Chapter 34, September 27, 1936, and in Book 98, Chapter 104, June 30, 1981, listing the size as 32 Rai 3 Ngan 96 Wah. The department will propose a budget in order to investigate further and develop the area as a tourist destination.

He added that this topic was discussed in a local community meeting and that agreement had been reached to cooperate with the fine art department to develop these abandoned historical remains.

Chamnan Kritsuwan, director of the 10th regional office of the Arts department at Nakorn Ratchasima, said after surveying the area that the archaeologists have to research and identify the origin and history of the area before restoration can take place. Early investigations show that the remains were built around the 16th – 17th Buddhist century and influenced by Mahayana Buddhism in the reign of Jayavarman VII. The restoration budget is expected to be at least Bt2 million not including the tourism promotion budget.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Will Sell 300-Plus Chinese Works of Art Donated by Florence and Herbert Irving

More than 300 Chinese works of art gifted by philanthropists and Asian art collectors Florence and Herbert Irving to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will be offered during Sotheby’s Asia Week in September.

Proceeds from the sale will fully benefit an Irving Acquisition Fund established by the museum to diversify its art collections. Sotheby’s didn’t disclose the total estimate of the collection.

In March 2015, the Irvings donated almost 1,300 works of art to the museum’s Department of Asian Arts for its centennial. At that time, they agreed that the Met could sell any of the works as long as the proceeds went toward future acquisitions.

READ MORE: Qing Dynasty Jade Washing Bowl From the Irvings Collection Sold for US$3 Million at Christie’s

Herbert Irving, one of the founders of Sysco Corp., the world’s largest food-services provider, died at his Manhattan apartment overlooking The Met in October 2016, at age 98. Florence died in July 2018, also at 98.

The Irvings made generous donations through the decades to the Met, which named its Asia art wing for the couple in 2004. Additionally, the Irvings donated more than $300 million to Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

“Our sales are representative of the Irvings’ exceptional taste in Chinese art,” says Angela McAteer, head of Sotheby’s Chinese works of art department in New York, “which features a strong emphasis on organic materials and works hewn from nature, as well as extraordinary Chinese jades produced during the reign of the Qianlong emperor.”
A white and apple-green jadeite “Landscape” table screen is expected to fetch up to $120,000 at Sotheby’s this September. Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Leading the sale is a finely carved spinach-green jade brush pot, formerly in the collection of English businessman and art collector Alfred Morrison (1821-97), and kept at Fonthill, his famed English country house.

The brush pot is an extremely luxurious item for the scholar’s desk. It was made from a large, high-quality boulder that would not have been easily available before the Qianlong Emperor’s 1759 conquest of the Western Territories—areas where such jades were produced.

The carvings feature immortals surrounded by auspicious elements, such as deer and lingzhi, a Chinese medicinal herb that is regarded as the “herb of spiritual potency.”

The brush pot has a presale estimate of between $500,000 and $700,000.

Including the brush pot, over 120 archaic and Qing dynasty (1644-1911) jades along with porcelain, sculptures, and objects for the scholar’s studio will be auctioned in a dedicated sale on Sept. 10 at Sotheby’s New York.

Additional items will be sold at Sotheby’s Asian Art auction on Sept. 14. Public exhibitions will open in Sotheby’s New York galleries on Sept. 6.

Exhibition on ancient Buddha statues opens in Beijing

BEIJING, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) — An exhibition featuring ancient Buddha statues which date back thousands of years has opened to the public at the National Museum of China in Beijing.

A total of 171 pieces (sets) of cultural relics are being showcased, including 131 Buddha statues from the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), most of which are made of white marble and are painted or gilded.

The exhibition mainly displays Buddha statues unearthed in 2012 from Yecheng, a historic site in Hebei Province’s Linzhang County.

Yecheng, which once served as a political center in ancient China, is famous for its Buddhism culture and is representative of Chinese Buddhism art due to its exquisiteness, variety in style and themes of its Buddha statues.

The exhibition, split into three individual parts, will run until Oct. 6.

(190807) — BEIJING, Aug. 7, 2019 (Xinhua) — Photo taken on Aug. 6, 2019 shows exhibits during a buddhist statue exhibition held at National Museum of China in Beijing, capital of China. A total of 171 exhibits including 131 buddhist statues from Linzhang County of north China’s Hebei Province were on display. (Xinhua/Jin Liangkuai)

Nara Buddhist statue cleaned before Bon festival

The Great Buddha statue in the ancient capital of Nara, western Japan, has undergone its annual cleaning ahead of the midsummer Bon Festival.

The 15-meter-high statue at Todaiji temple is dusted off every year on August 7. The cleaning is designed to prepare for the festival, when people pay respects to their ancestors.

On Wednesday morning, priests conducted a ceremony to temporarily remove the Buddha’s soul from the statue.

About 180 priests and worshippers then climbed onto the statue to clean and polish, using brooms and dusters.

Some were raised in baskets suspended from the ceiling of the hall housing the statue so they could clean parts those on the statue cannot reach, including its face and chest.

Many people came to watch the cleaning.

A student of cultural properties from neighboring Osaka Prefecture said it was her first time to see the process and she was very impressed that the work involves so many people.

5 minutes with… A Nepalese bronze figure of Buddha Ratnasambhava

Jacqueline Dennis Subhash, Head of Christie’s Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art department, explains how and why this sculpture was made, and recalls her visits to the bronze workshops of the Kathmandu Valley

Almost half a metre in height, this large, gilt-bronze figure of a buddha was made some time between the 17th and 18th centuries by the renowned Newari artisans of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal.

‘The Newari have been making Buddhist statues since at least the sixth century, transmitting deep iconographical knowledge gleaned from sacred texts through the generations,’ explains Jacqueline Dennis Subhash, the head of Christie’s Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art department.

Twenty years ago, when Subhash was a Tibetan Studies undergraduate at university in Kathmandu, she regularly visited their workshops. ‘There are foundries everywhere throughout the valley, still alive and well,’ she says. ‘Even today you could walk into one and commission a gilt-bronze statue of your choice.’

A rare gilt-bronze figure of Buddha Ratnasambhava, Nepal, 17th-18th century. Height 46 cm (18⅛ in). Estimate $700,000-900,000. Offered in Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art on 11 September 2019 at Christie’s in New York

A rare gilt-bronze figure of Buddha Ratnasambhava, Nepal, 17th-18th century. Height: 46 cm (18⅛ in). Estimate: $700,000-900,000. Offered in Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Works of Art on 11 September 2019 at Christie’s in New York

The Newari create their sculptures using the lost-wax technique. It involves coating a wax model in clay mixed with dung and rice husks, then firing it to melt the wax and leave a hollow cast into which molten bronze can be poured.

In the Kathmandu Valley, craftspeople use a particularly high volume of copper in their bronze alloy, 85-95 per cent, which gives the metal a deep russet tone — visible here on the sculpture’s reverse.

‘This sculpture would have been a treasure from the moment it was made’

Like many Nepalese bronze sculptures, this figure has been fire-gilded — a process that involves washing the statue with gold and mercury. When fired, the mercury evaporates to leave a gilded film bonded to the surface.

‘Mercury vapours are very toxic,’ warns Subhash. ‘Mercury poisoning is still common in Nepal, but to help combat it, artisans practice an ancient technique of standing upwind with a mouthful of raw meat, which is believed to absorb the vapours.’

It’s the mudra or hand gesture that makes this figure identifiable as Ratnasambhava
It’s the mudra or hand gesture that makes this figure identifiable as Ratnasambhava

Subhash can’t think of more than ten bronze buddhas of this calibre that have gone under the hammer during the past decade. ‘And of those ten, only a third were Nepalese,’ she adds. ‘When you also consider the fact that this statue has been in the same private German collection since 1973, its sale becomes an exceptional moment.’

And if Subhash was to own it? ‘Can’t you just picture him on a Noguchi table in front of a Rothko?’ she says with a smile. ‘Timeless.’